With some 15 months left before the final vote to choose the host country of the World Expo 2030, Korea’s major corporations are pulling out all the stops to increase the chances of Busan being selected.
The activities vary from displaying advertisements to meetings with high-level government officials in dozens of countries after the bidding committee matched large companies with several countries with voting rights.
Samsung Electronics was matched with the most countries at 31 including Nepal, Laos and South Africa, and its Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong was named a special presidential envoy for Busan’s bid.
Lee is expected to visit Britain as early as this week in relation to the new role while SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won will fly to Japan.
Countries with close ties with multiple companies like the United States, China, Japan and Indonesia have multiple matches.
Executives at the electronics maker met with political leaders in Nepal, Cambodia, South Africa, Spain, Fiji, Philippines, Vietnam and Timor-Leste.
The gatherings featured pitches for the expo candidacy as well as charity and social campaigns.
When Vice Chairman Han Jong-hee had a meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Aug. 30, the two discussed how Samsung Electronics could contribute to enhancing digital transformation and sustainable development in Spain in addition to seeking cooperation on winning the bid.
Samsung plans to introduce more programs designed to provide science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and training for women, 5G network adoption and digital security.
President Rhee In-yong presented the company’s corporate social responsibility initiatives such as environmental campaigns in Fiji.
The endeavor is spearheaded by an internal task force team with Vice Chairman Chung Hyun-ho at the helm.
“The members of the task force team totals around 30,” said a spokesperson at Samsung Electronics.
“But the number only includes those working full-time for the task, if counting part-time participants, the number could increase further,” they said.
Samsung displayed advertising on large signage boards in South Africa’s Johannesburg, Tribhuvan International Airport in Nepal and Dili, the capital city of Timor-Leste.
Samsung Electronics runs incorporated units — whether it be manufacturing facilities, research centers or sales offices — in 47 countries. Key production sites include Brazil for televisions, China for semiconductors, India and Vietnam for smartphones, Malaysia and Thailand for home appliances and the United States for semiconductors.
Its most recent investments were made in the U.S., where Samsung committed at least $17 billion to build a chip plant in Taylor, Texas. It is on track to complete a new research center in Hanoi, Vietnam, a project that costs $220 million.
SK is also flexing its lobbying muscles. SK Chairman Chey, who doubles as Chairman of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, became the private sector chair of the Bid Committee for World Expo 2030 Busan.
The chairman flew to Paris back in June to attend the general assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), to rally international support.
Other executives are handling hectic schedules of meeting politicians from 24 designated countries, which include Afghanistan, Armenia and Malta.
SK Innovation Vice Chairman Kim Jun requested support from Polish Minister of Economic Development and Technology Waldemar Grzegorz Buda last month.
“The 2030 Busan World Expo is designed to become a platform where various tasks and challenges facing the world, such as climate change, can be discussed and solved together,” Kim said during the meeting.
Park Jung-ho, vice chairman of SK hynix and SK Telecom, headed to Palau last month to present the bid to President Surangel Whipps Jr.
The support is headed by a team called World Expo TF, or WE TF, which is led by Cho Dae-sik, the chairman of SK’s Supex Council, the group’s highest consultative body.
On the team, SK allotted specific countries to the executives according to their business operations. For instance, Vice Chairman Park from SK hynix is responsible for the Americas, Japan and western Europe as the chipmaker holds a sound presence in the regions. It acquired Intel’s NAND memory business for $9 billion and plans to build a research center in the U.S.
SK Innovation’s Kim Jun is taking care of the Middle East, Africa, Oceania and Eastern Europe given the refinery and EV battery maker actively runs businesses there. SK Innovation has constructed EV battery plants in the U.S., Hungary and China.
In terms of the pace of forming an Expo-related team, Hyundai Motor Group was the first as it launched a dedicated team in August last year. Led by Kim Dong-wook, executive vice president at Hyundai Motor, the task force has actively been promoting the city, even using its vehicles.
Hyundai in July invited 23 government officials and ambassadors from some 10 Middle Eastern countries to its Hyundai Motor Studio in Busan to explain the competitiveness of Busan and ask them for support for the city in its bid to host the world expo.
The tour was held on July 6 during the officials’ two-day visit to Busan to participate in the Korea-Middle East Cooperation Forum.
In June in Paris, where meetings of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) are held, Hyundai’s Tucson SUVs toured the city with the expo logo printed on the cars for two days starting on June 20.
Hyundai has been promoting Busan using promotional pamphlets and videos at Hyundai and Kia’s stores overseas. Hyundai is in charge of targeting 20 countries all over the world.
“Busan, the dynamic and future-oriented city, will be the optimal city to design the new future of humans through the 2030 World Expo,” said Hyundai Motor Group President Gong Young-woon.
To promote the bid, LG Electronics installed advertising signage at 10 landmarks in Korea including Gimhae International Airport in Busan and Gimpo International Airport in Seoul.
It aired promotional footage in Times Square in New York and Piccadilly Gardens in Britain, as well as erected banners at the IFA 2022, the largest tech show in Europe.
LG Electronics CEO Cho Joo-wan is heading a team devoted to supporting the bid.
Its target countries include Kenya, Somalia and Rwanda where it has incorporated units and claims substantial market share in the home appliance market.
Posco is also promoting Busan, with executives having direct meetings with presidents and high-rank government officials from foreign countries. Its task force, which was established on July 25 and is being led by Posco President Jeong Tak, includes Posco International CEO Joo Si-bo and Posco Engineering & Construction CEO Han Sung-hee.
President Jeong on Sept. 1 met with Argentinian Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero to ask for his support for Busan. The meeting was held after Posco Holdings Chairman Choi Jeong-woo met with Argentinian President Alberto Fernánde in March. Choi is a member of a committee compromised of business leaders supporting Busan’s bid.
Joo from Posco International also held a meeting with Bozorov Hayitbayevich, the governor of Fergana, Uzbekistan, and requested support for the bid in May.
Han from Posco Engineering & Construction met with Mathias Francke, the Chilean Ambassador to Korea, calling for support for Busan’s bid.
Posco is targeting seven countries including Indonesia, Vietnam and Argentina.
Lotte is considered a company with close ties with the candidate city since its founder Shin Kyuk-ho was born in Ulsan, a city right next to Busan, and opened hotels and retail services there.
As an owner of a professional baseball team based in Busan, Lotte has been supportive of Busan’s bid, with Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin actively promoting the city both at home and abroad.
In June, Shin attended the Consumer Goods Forum held in Dublin, Ireland, and promoted the bid during business meetings with global retailers that attended the event. Shin is said to be considering a visit to the Lotte-Korea Brand Expo set to be held in New York in September, to meet heads of overseas companies to ask for support.
Lotte representatives visited Vietnam several times, with Chairman Shin meeting with Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc during his business trip to the country on Aug. 31 and displaying promotional videos and brochures while attending the Thu Thiem Eco Smart City groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 2. Lotte officials also met with Tran Hong Nguyen, vice chairman of Vietnam’s National Assembly Legal Committee, in August to request the country’s support.
Lotte companies doing business in retail and food, such as Lotte Shopping and Lotte GRS, will mostly focus on promoting the expo bid to Koreans through various advertisements and posters at its branches.
When promoting the bid abroad, Lotte will focus on three countries in particular — Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Its hotel and duty-free businesses will also display advertisements in their overseas branches and chemical companies such as Lotte Chemical and Lotte Fine Chemical. Lotte Chemical operates rubber and polyolefin-manufacturing plants in Malaysia. It also has a plastic production plant in Indonesia and is currently building another ethylene-production factory in the country.
Hyundai Heavy Industries Group is using its soccer club to promote Busan. Starting this season, players of Ulsan Hyundai Football Club will wear uniforms with the Busan Expo emblem printed on them.
Led by Ka Sam-hyun, vice chairman of Korea Shipbuilding and Offshore Engineering (KSOE), its task force has around 10 executives from subsidiaries. Hyundai Heavy Industries is 78 percent owned by KSOE.
Since July, Hyundai Oilbank has been distributing promotional pamphlets to drivers who visit its gas stations in Busan and South Gyeongsang.
Others like Hyundai Heavy, Hyundai Electric and Hyundai Energy Solutions are scheduled to participate in exhibitions in countries like Italy and France and will decorate their booths with promotional pamphlets and videos.
GS companies are also giving their support to Busan. Woo Moo-hyun, president of GS Engineering and Construction, is leading a task force team that consists of employees working for GS companies’ public and government relations divisions.
Like other business tycoons, GS Group Chairman Huh Tae-soo and President Woo will actively meet with overseas officials the company has ties with to persuade them that Busan is the ideal choice to host the expo.
Although GS companies haven’t been assigned specific countries to promote Busan’s bid, GS Holdings said it plans to reach out to countries its subsidiaries have established good working relationships with.
GS Engineering and Construction’s subsidiaries such as Vietnam GS Industry One Member and Vietnam GS Enterprise One Member have been working on various construction projects in Vietnam, building a smart city in Nhà Bè and various roads in Ho Chi Minh city. GS Caltex was the first Korean company to open a polypropylene plant in the Czech Republic in 2013, also operating other plants in China and Mexico.
“Hosting the World Expo is a national goal for Korea, and even if Busan isn’t picked for the World Expo this time, our combined efforts could help the city to achieve its goal next time,” said a spokesperson for GS Holdings. “Promoting the event is very important because not a lot of Koreans may know about Busan’s bid right now, which we will do our best to change.”
The company plans to publicize the event to Koreans by partnering with FC Seoul, a soccer team run by its subsidiary GS Sports, and handing out cheering tools with promotional messages.
Hanwha will use the Seoul International Fireworks Festival as a platform to promote the bid. In the event due to be held on Oct. 8, the group will feature a promotional video in the midst of the fireworks.
Shinsegae and Emart companies are working together, with its high ranking officials also traveling abroad to promote the bid to its business partners.
“Initially, we are helping to promote Busan’s bid for the World Expo because it’s an event of national importance,” said a spokesperson for Shinsegae. “But we do operate various businesses in Busan, and a lot of foreign tourists will visit if Busan does host an international event, which will greatly benefit us.”
Shinsegae operates the Centum City Mall in Busan, the largest department store in Korea.